The Runaway Duchess
There really isn’t much new under the sun when it comes to Regency Romances. So when I read one, I judge it on how well the author can cover familiar territory. Since I very much enjoyed Patricia Oliver’s latest regency The Lady in Gray, I went on a bookstore glom and hit a winner with The Runaway Duchess. No big breakthroughs or cutting edge plots and characters, but oh the charm of it!
Georgina Bennett is the daughter of the Duke of Attlebridge and the widow of the Duke of Ware. She is 27 and at the age of 17 was married to Ware, one of her father’s friends. Georgina’s marriage was happy. Ware treated her with kindness and generosity and she loved him, but there was a lack of passion between them and Georgina is still fundamentally innocent.
When her mourning period is over, Georgina finds out that her father has engaged her to another rich and older peer, the Marquis of Portland. Georgian is fond of the marquis, but she does not want to remarry just yet so she breaks the engagement and runs to her cousin Letty’s estate in Devon where she is incognita as Miss Bennett.
At the estate, Georgina’s observes her cousin’s very happy marriage, which is much like her own was with the exception that Letty and her husband, Frederick are still passionately in love. Georgianne meets Frederick’s cousin, Major Jack Hampton. Jack is a young man, a widower whose beloved wife had died in childbirth. He has retired from the army and is living on his estate, quite comfortably well-off a la Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice.
Jack falls in love with Georgina and she for the first time feels love and passion for a man. But Georgina’s father tracks her down and in a scene of stunning snobbery lets Jack know that he is not good enough for a dowager Duchess.
Jack’s pride is wounded. He might not have a title, but his family is of the gentry and has served King and Country since the battle of Agincourt. Georgina meekly returns and resumes her engagement. Jack has to overcome wounded pride and Georgina has to rise above daughterly submission to claim the love that they both feel.
Jack and Georgina are quite charming even though there were times I wanted to shake them out of their stubborn attitudes. The secondary characters are equally charming – especially Jack’s aunt who raised him when his parents were killed and his bluff and friendly grandfather. Georgina’s cousin Letty and her husband Frederick were also wonderful. There is a scene where they sneak off to the conservatory to kiss and cuddle and when Georgina sees them, she suddenly realizes that a husband can also be a lover. She has missed that with her marriage to Ware, however happy that marriage might have been.
The Runaway Duchess is a good example of how good a Regency can be in the hand of a writer who knows and loves the period. If you would like to try a Regency Romance to see what the genre is all about, this is good one with which to start.